I recently had a grant funded by a local foundation, and after sharing about it on Instagram and Facebook, I had several people ask for more details. So today, I would like to share with you about what I have learned about writing grants and where to find funding sources.
One thing I often hear people say is that they don’t have the time to write an application, especially if there isn’t money in the budget anyway. Trust me, I understand the budget issue! I currently get around $200 per year to spend on materials for my elementary and middle school caseload – and with 15-40 evaluations per year, that’s easily spent on standardized test forms alone. I spend a lot of my own money on therapy materials, as well as a lot of time creating my own. (In fact, that’s how I got started on TpT – I was working in a newly created position in my first three years fresh out of grad school, and there weren’t initially many materials for me to use.) But when it comes to the big ticket items, I just can’t afford to spend that kind of money, even though my students would benefit from it. And really, it didn’t take that much time – once I found out about the grant opportunity, it took me about an hour to write the first grant, and only about 20 minutes for each subsequent one.
First, know exactly what you want.
… and more importantly, be able to explain *why* this is necessary to do your job. Are all of your standardized tests years out of date, putting you at risk for a due process issue, as well as hindering your ability to appropriately assess students for special education services? Do you travel between buildings, with no space to store or carry materials? Be prepared to explain how a new iPad loaded with articulation, phonology, and language apps would make you better able to serve your students, while still remaining portable.
…to explain what exactly it is you do, in a way that someone who is not familiar with our field – or even special education – would understand. Address that first in whatever type of application you fill out. Why are your services so valuable? What does learning better communication skills mean for your students in the long run? How many students do you serve, and what kind of communication difficulties do they have?
Don’t forget to include information about yourself. Who are you? What is your background? What are you passionate about? What ties do you have to the community and/or school district?
The key to a successful grant application is to persuade whoever might fund your grant that your request is important and will help you help your students, and that speech and language skills are vital to educational success.
First, talk to your principal or supervisor.
Be prepared with the information above, and be clear that you know this request isn’t possible with your current budget, but you are looking for any other possible funding sources. They may know of different local organizations, grants, or funds that you haven’t heard about. For example, when I requested the Expanding Expression Tool a few years ago, I was told it was out of my budget. After explaining how I could use it to help my language students, and how it would also help improve their reading and writing skills, my principal was able to find me the money in some left over Title I funds.
I would advise starting on the district level. Does your building have a Parent/Teacher Organization that helps teachers purchase certain supplies? Does your district have a community foundation that awards grants? These are often good places to start. My husband (who is a first grade teacher in my building) recently got a grant for a class set of Kindles through our community foundation.
Next, are there any area foundations or businesses that will donate to school staff? This is where you will need to ask around – ask other specialists and teachers in your area – or even your area Facebook friends! – if they have heard of anything.
This is how I found out about a foundation that awards grants specifically for special needs students in my Illinois county only. (Apparently, the foundation was created with the leftover money and investments from a home for children with special needs in our county that closed down many years ago.) This is where I received funding for two iPads, apps, and the new CASL-2, and also where my husband was able to get funding for a set of Hokki stools for his first graders.
I also know of a local Lions club that donated to help fund a child’s cochlear implants that were not going to be covered by insurance.
Finally, consider state or national sources.
DonorsChoose.org is a popular option, although it takes quite a bit of work on your part to make sure that potential donors know about your project. Donors Choose encourages you to fund raise among your personal connections, although there are certainly anonymous donors that help fund projects as well. From my research, you are most likely to be successful on Donors Choose if your project is $300 or less if at all possible, and you definitely need to keep it under $1,000. It’s more likely that several smaller projects will be funded, rather than one large one.
Also, check out this list on Edutopia for grants available around the country to see if you might fit the criteria for any grants listed.
You can also try googling “special education grants” and your city, county, or state.